Simon Bridges says requiring vaccine passes to get into shops and bars will be "completely unworkable", despite the National Party pushing for them for months and Judith Collins saying she was "delighted" they're finally here.
The Government this week rolled out the 'My Vaccine Pass', which allows double-vaccinated Kiwis to easily get official documentation proving their status. It can be saved directly to your phone - accessible from your homescreen via a single click - or downloaded and turned into a physical copy.
The rollout comes ahead of December's likely move to the 'traffic light' system. At each level, some venues - including bars, restaurants, gyms, close-contact businesses and those hosting major events - will have fewer capacity restrictions, if any, if they only let in vaccinated people.
At orange and red levels some places won't be allowed to operate at all, or only do so contactlessly, if they don't want to take this safety precaution.
"I think it's going to be completely unworkable," National MP Bridges told The AM Show on Friday, appearing with senior Labour MP David Parker.
"Either what you're going to have around the country is a police state where the police are out there looking for passports or certificates everywhere, and at shops and here there and everywhere - or else it's going to fall by the wayside.
"I just can't see how bars, restaurants are retail and so on are going to make this work. When David says they've put a lot of thought into it, I'd love to see the evidence of that. The Prime Minister, when she was asked these sorts of questions, couldn't answer very many of them."
There's no requirement for retail to use the passes - at orange and red there will be capacity limits based on 1m physical distancing, regardless of whether they only let in the vaccinated or not.
"It's as clear as mud, isn't it?" said Bridges. "The traffic light system, the border stuff. I confess, I don't exactly understand it all."
His confusion comes despite vaccine passes being a key part of National's 'Opening Up' plan released in September.
"It has been clear for months now that New Zealanders will need a universal and straightforward way of verifying their vaccination status when they need to," step eight of the party's 10-step plan of actions "New Zealand needs to take" reads.
"This will be essential for international travel and useful for domestic use. Domestic uses may involve proof of vaccination for some jobs and possible entry into private businesses and events."
The document goes on to outline how many other countries have introduced digital proof-of-vaccination systems, saying New Zealand needed it "as a priority".
"Everyone should be able to have quick and easy access to information to prove their vaccination status."
In early October, party leader Collins said the vaccine passes were coming "far too late", and on Wednesday said she was "delighted" they were finally here.
Parker said venues used to checking IDs for age verification won't have problems also checking people's vaccination status.
"Bars are used to getting ID from people if they look like they might be close to 20. People have stopped asking me in recent years. But you can't really do it simpler than having a certificate on a telephone that can be downloaded and shown on your phone, which is what most people will do. If people haven't got a suitable phone they can download it and print it off. I think it's practical."
But they don't have to if they don't want to, he added.
"Bars have a choice - they don't have to use this, they can go for social distancing instead. They have a choice. This is about keeping New Zealanders safe… I think most people will instead go for the vaccine certificates because they can have more people in their premises without social distancing.
"We're in the lucky position that because we've done so well, we haven't had to deal with these issues as soon as some other countries. Countries through Europe have similar measures to limit the spread of COVID, and we do too."
The first cases of the Delta variant were picked up in Tauranga, Bridges' electorate, on Thursday.
"It was inevitable, wasn't it?" he said. "If you're out there and you haven't been vaccinated and you're in the Bay of Plenty, get it done. If you've got symptoms, get tested.
"But we're a resilient, practical kind of people. I think we just otherwise will go about our normal everyday business."